When the St. Louis Rams used first- and third-round picks on Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in 2013, they instantly added a new fan base in Morgantown, W.Va., home of the Mountaineers and the dynamic receiving duo.
Before the season, the Rams even sent a marketing contingent to a West Virginia game to help build the relationship. If things play out the way ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. sees it in his first mock draft, the next trip could be to College Station, Texas.
With the Nos. 2 and 13 picks in the first round of the 2014 draft, Kiper has the Rams selecting Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans, respectively. In terms of the positions taken, it's hard to argue with Kiper's focus. Receiver and offensive line, along with the secondary, should take precedence for the Rams this offseason.
Kiper's prediction of Matthews to the Rams falls in line with the first mock of fellow draft analyst Todd McShay, who mocked Matthews to St. Louis in December. At the time, I wrote that choosing Matthews would make sense. Nothing has happened since to change that stance. In fact, the move is even more logical now than at the time after left tackle Jake Long suffered a torn ACL and MCL against Tampa Bay on Dec. 22.
I'm of the belief the Rams will do what they can to make a trade down with the No. 2 pick and still acquire a top lineman or receiver. If the Rams could move down two or three spots, pick up extra picks and then grab Matthews or Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, that could turn out to be the ideal situation. And of course, the possibility of adding South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney still looms.
At No. 13, Kiper goes with the big, physical Evans to add some needed playmaking ability to the offense. The addition of Evans makes sense because he could represent a different "flavor" of receiver than what the Rams have on the roster. Brian Quick was supposed to fill the role of the big, physical presence in the receiver corps but has yet to meet that expectation. The Rams still believe in Quick, though, and 2014 will be a big year for him to take that step. If he can't, the Rams might be more inclined to be in the market for a player like Evans in 2015.
The Rams are in need of a consistent, big-time receiver. They've invested four picks in the position the past two years, including the No. 8 overall choice on Austin last year. But that's no reason to quit looking to add more talent at the position. If Detroit had gone with that approach, the Lions wouldn't have Calvin Johnson.
The Rams have been searching for a true No. 1 type of receiver since Torry Holt. They've had some bad luck in the sense that the true top receivers that have come out have done so in years the Rams haven't picked high enough to choose one.
It's still early in the process, but most draft analysts, Kiper included, believe that Watkins is the best receiver in the draft and the best prospect at the position since Julio Jones and A.J. Green a couple of years ago. If the Rams believe that, too, perhaps it would make more sense to add the receiver first and then begin to add to the offensive line.
What's more, Rams line coach Paul Boudreau has proven adept at coaching up lesser talent. So, drafting the best player on the offensive line not as imperative as finding the best wideout.